18th-century dress is renowned for its opulence. The period saw fashions for elaborate wigs, rich embroidery and full skirts. In addition to men’s and women’s daywear, the remarkably wide gowns worn for formal court occasions.
18th century the male silhouette differed greatly from that of today. A typical outfit consisted of a full-skirted knee-length coat, knee breeches, a vest or long waistcoat (which could be sleeved), a linen shirt with frills and linen under drawers. Lower legs showed and were an important part of the silhouette. Men wore silk stockings and leather shoes with stacked heels of low or medium height
18th century women wore a dress known as a mantua for formal occasions. The mantua was an open-fronted silk or fine wool gown with a train and matching petticoat. The train was worn looped up over the hips to reveal the petticoat. The bodice had loose elbow-length sleeves finished with wide turned-back cuffs. A hoop petticoat and several under-petticoats wore worn beneath the outer petticoat.
Wedding Dress, early 1880s:
Dinner Dress. 1880
Worth evening dress, 1887-88
By the early 19th century men’s fashions had also undergone a radical change. The coat still finished in long tails at the back but was cut higher in front. The waist-length square-cut waistcoat showed beneath it. The lining of the shoulders and upper chest of the coat was sometimes quilted to improve the fit.
As the 19th century progressed women’s dress gradually revealed the actual form of the body. In the 1820s and 1830s the waistline deepened, returning to its natural position. As the natural waist returned the bodice required a tighter fit and in contrast the skirt became fuller and bell-shaped.
1904 French silk
An embroidered gold tulle tabard, circa 1910-12
Evening dress, ca 1905 Austria, the Met Museum
Walking Suit 1905-1910